Monthly Archives: April 2019

How To Create Electricity From Snowfall

Researchers from University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and colleagues have designed a new device that creates electricity from falling snow. The first of its kind, this device is inexpensive, small, thin and flexible like a sheet of plastic.

The device can work in remote areas because it provides its own power and does not need batteries,” said senior author Richard Kaner, who holds UCLA’s Dr. Myung Ki Hong Endowed Chair in Materials Innovation. “It’s a very clever device — a weather station that can tell you how much snow is falling, the direction the snow is falling, and the direction and speed of the wind.”

The researchers call it a snow-based triboelectric nanogenerator, or snow TENG. A triboelectric nanogenerator, which generates charge through static electricity, produces energy from the exchange of electrons.

Static electricity occurs from the interaction of one material that captures electrons and another that gives up electrons,” said Kaner, who is also a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and of materials science and engineering, and a member of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA. “You separate the charges and create electricity out of essentially nothing.”

Snow is positively charged and gives up electrons. Silicone — a synthetic rubber-like material that is composed of silicon atoms and oxygen atoms, combined with carbon, hydrogen and other elements — is negatively charged. When falling snow contacts the surface of silicone, that produces a charge that the device captures, creating electricity.

Snow is already charged, so we thought, why not bring another material with the opposite charge and extract the charge to create electricity?” said co-author Maher El-Kady, a UCLA assistant researcher of chemistry and biochemistry.

While snow likes to give up electrons, the performance of the device depends on the efficiency of the other material at extracting these electrons,” he added. “After testing a large number of materials including aluminum foils and Teflon, we found that silicone produces more charge than any other material.”

Findings about the device are published in the journal Nano Energy.

Source: https://newsroom.ucla.edu/

Paris orders 800 new electric buses to fight smog

Paris’ public transport operator has ordered up to 800 electric buses to take to the streets of the French capital to replace diesel versions and fight smog in the build up to the 2024 Olympics.

Three French engineering firms — Heuliez Bus, Bollore and Alstom — won the tender to supply the buses in deals worth up to 400 million euros ($450 million), the transport operator RATP  said. RATP will buy an equal number of buses from each supplier, it added, describing the tender as the biggest such bus purchase in Europe. It will begin by buying 150 buses, with the first deliveries expected between the end of 2020 and 2022, it added.

Local authorities in Paris want the French capital to have 100-percent clean buses by 2025 by using both electricity and biofuels.

This is a major step for the RATP and a symbol of its ambition to be a key player in the energy transition in the public transport sector,” said RATP chief executive Catherine Guillouard.

To put them into service, the company is mobilised to meet an industrial challenge within a very short tight deadline,” she added.

Paris already has one line — number 341 — fully operational with electric buses, but it will be a major task to transform its full fleet of just under 4,700 busesRATP currently has some 950 hybrid-powered buses, 140 bio-fuel buses and 83 electric buses in its fleet.

The use of electric buses is growing all over the world, with China the leader in employing the technology as it seeks to relieve pollution in clogged cities. But they are becoming an increasingly familiar sight in European cities, in particular in Dutch cities Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Paris’ Socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo has made tackling smog a priority and is planning stricter rules aimed at phasing out diesel cars by 2024, and is also weighing the idea of making public transport free.

Source: https://www.france24.com/

5G Connected Cows

They may look like regular cows, but a herd of Friesian dairy cattle at a British farm are internet pioneers and they are enjoying the benefits of 5G connectivity before you. 5G promises super-fast connections, which evangelists say will transform the way we live our lives, enabling everything from self-driving cars to augmented-reality glasses and downloading a feature-length film to your phone in seconds.

While it is being used in pockets of pilot studies around the world, the first near-nationwide coverage is not expected in countries such as China, Japan or the United States until 2023, according to industry analysts. For the cows, among the 5G-connected gadgets they are wearing is a collar that controls a robotic milking systemWhen the cow feels ready to be milked it will approach machine gates that will automatically open. The device recognizes the individual to precisely latch on to its teats for milking, while the cow munches on a food reward.

At the government-funded Agricultural Engineering Precision Innovation Centre (Agri-EPI Centre) in Shepton Mallet, in southwest England, around 50 of the 180-strong herd is fitted with the 5G smart collars and health-monitoring ear tags. The gadgets do not harm the cows and the monitoring allows handlers to see any signs of distress.

We are testing the ability of 5G to transmit the data from our sensors much quicker, and not via the farm’s PC and a slow broadband internet connection,” said Duncan Forbes, Project Manager at the Agri-Epi Centre. “And the significance of that is it means that this sort of technology could be taken up … not just on farms but on rural communities right across the country.

The working dairy, set up by Agri-EPI with the support of Britain’s innovation agency, uses a range of technology; including automated brushes that rotate when the cow rubs up against them, sensor-operated curtains that open depending on the weather, and a smart feeding system that automatically delivers food in the barn via ceiling-mounted rails.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/

Verizon Turns On its 5G Networks In Chicago And Minneapolis

The world may not have seemed to have changed much between today and yesterday, but rest assured that something earth-shattering has occurred in the world of mobile tech. Verizon has officially flipped the switch and turned on 5G network access in Chicago and Minneapolis a full week ahead of schedule.

Verizon’s 5G network was due to come to life on April 11, alongside the launch of Motorola’s 5G Moto Mod for the Moto Z3. However, for an unknown reason, Verizon has decided to start the 5G revolution a week early, turning on 5G access in selected parts of Chicago and Minneapolis. Verizon has also pushed the release of the 5G Moto Mod forward to match, so users with a Moto Z3 with the mod will be able to access it immediately.

It’s an impressive technical feat. When customers are actually able to access the network, they’ll be rewarded with incredibly fast download speeds from their new mobile connection. According to Verizon, 450 Mbps can be expected as a typical download speed, while peak speeds could rise to as high as 1 Gbps, with latency as low as 30 milliseconds. That’s astoundingly fast, and rivals most, if not all, home internet connections.

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to roam far from the hot spots to use it, as the range is currently extremely limited. In Chicago, you can expect to find 5G signal in the West Loop and South Loop, around landmarks like Union Station, Willis Tower, The Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park, and the Chicago Theatre. Unsurprisingly, you’ll also find signal in Verizon stores in The Magnificent Mile and throughout The Gold Coast, Old Town, and River North.

Minneapolis is similarly limited. You’ll find 5G signal in the Downtown area, including Downtown West and Downtown East, as well as inside and around U.S. Bank Stadium. It will also be available around landmarks like the Minneapolis Convention Center, the Minneapolis Central Library, the Mill City Museum, Target Center and First Avenue venues, The Commons, areas of Elliot Park, and in the Verizon store in the Mall of America.

Source: https://www.digitaltrends.com/

Premature Aging, Obesity, Brain Disorders: 3 FrontRunners In The CRISP-R Therapy Race

CRISPR is the ultimate child star in the biomedical universe. Just six years old, the gene editing prodigy is now the subject of multiple clinical trials that aim to push the lab tech into the real world. In 2017, a 44-year-old man received the first-ever dose of gene therapy—in the form of zinc-finger nucleases—that targeted a deficient gene in his liver. This type of gene therapy, called “in vivo” in scientist-speak, is markedly different than the most common type these days.

So far, the only gene therapies on the market are CAR-Ts: a procedure targeting blood cancer that extracts a person’s immune cells, genetically edits them within the lab to boost their cancer-killing power, and then infuses them back into the body.

In vivo gene therapy is far more intimate: rather than extracting a person’s cells, a gene editing mix is directly injected into a person, with the hope of performing molecular surgery with a single shot. CRISPR is now making that possibility very real. With dozens of efforts in the making, from premature aging to obesity and developmental brain disorders, here are the frontrunners beyond CRISPR-based cancer therapy to watch out for.

Source: https://singularityhub.com/

3D Printed Metamaterials With Super Optical Properties

A team of engineers at Tufts University has developed a series of 3D printed metamaterials with unique microwave or optical properties that go beyond what is possible using conventional optical or electronic materials. The fabrication methods developed by the researchers demonstrate the potential, both present and future, of 3D printing to expand the range of geometric designs and material composites that lead to devices with novel optical properties. In one case, the researchers drew inspiration from the compound eye of a moth to create a hemispherical device that can absorb electromagnetic signals from any direction at selected wavelengths.

The geometry of a moth’s eye provides inspiration for a 3D printed antenna that absorbs specific microwave frequencies from any direction

Metamaterials extend the capabilities of conventional materials in devices by making use of geometric features arranged in repeating patterns at scales smaller than the wavelengths of energy being detected or influenced. New developments in 3D printing technology are making it possible to create many more shapes and patterns of metamaterials, and at ever smaller scales. In the study, researchers at the Nano Lab at Tufts describe a hybrid fabrication approach using 3D printing, metal coating and etching to create metamaterials with complex geometries and novel functionalities for wavelengths in the microwave range. For example, they created an array of tiny mushroom shaped structures, each holding a small patterned metal resonator at the top of a stalk. This particular arrangement permits microwaves of specific frequencies to be absorbed, depending on the chosen geometry of the “mushrooms” and their spacing. Use of such metamaterials could be valuable in applications such as sensors in medical diagnosis and as antennas in telecommunications or detectors in imaging applications.

The research has been published in the journal Microsystems & Nanoengineering (Springer Nature).

Source: https://now.tufts.edu/

How The Army Uses Microsoft’s HoloLens On The Battlefield


CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

The headset is impressive — better than any augmented reality experience, including Magic Leap, which also tried to win the Army contract. The project is also a showcase for the Army’s plans to work more closely with America’s tech companies to speed innovation in military. The military calls its special version of the HoloLens 2IVAS,” which stands for Integrated Visual Augmentation System. It’s an augmented-reality headset, which means it places digital objects, such as maps or video displays, on top of the real world in front of you. Several companies are betting big on AR as the future of computing, since it will allow us to do much of what we can on a computer but while looking through glasses instead of down at a phone or at a computer screen. Apple, Google and Magic Leap are all building AR-capable software and hardware.

Put the headset on and pulled it down so that your eyes are peering through a glass visor. That visor is capable of displaying 3D images, information, my location and more. IVAS isn’t nearly finished.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/

Artificial Intelligence Revolutionizes Farming

Researchers at MIT have used AI to improve the flavor of basil. It’s part of a trend that is seeing artificial intelligence revolutionize farming.
What makes basil so good? In some cases, it’s AI. Machine learning has been used to create basil plants that are extra-delicious. While we sadly cannot report firsthand on the herb’s taste, the effort reflects a broader trend that involves using data science and machine learning to improve agriculture 

The researchers behind the AI-optimized basil used machine learning to determine the growing conditions that would maximize the concentration of the volatile compounds responsible for basil’s flavor. The basil was grown in hydroponic units within modified shipping containers in Middleton, Massachusetts. Temperature, light, humidity, and other environmental factors inside the containers could be controlled automatically. The researchers tested the taste of the plants by looking for certain compounds using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. And they fed the resulting data into machine-learning algorithms developed at MIT and a company called Cognizant.

The research showed, counterintuitively, that exposing plants to light 24 hours a day generated the best taste. The research group plans to study how the technology might improve the disease-fighting capabilities of plants as well as how different flora may respond to the effects of climate change.

We’re really interested in building networked tools that can take a plant’s experience, its phenotype, the set of stresses it encounters, and its genetics, and digitize that to allow us to understand the plant-environment interaction,” said Caleb Harper, head of the MIT Media Lab’s OpenAg group, in a press release. His lab worked with colleagues from the University of Texas at Austin on the paper.

The idea of using machine learning to optimize plant yield and properties is rapidly taking off in agriculture. Last year, Wageningen University in the Netherlands organized an “Autonomous Greenhousecontest, in which different teams competed to develop algorithms that increased the yield of cucumber plants while minimizing the resources required. They worked with greenhouses where a variety of factors are controlled by computer systems.

The study has appeared  in the journal PLOS One.

Source: https://www.technologyreview.com/

Nanobiochip Detects Minute Levels Of Disease

The difficulty in spotting minute amounts of disease circulating in the bloodstream has proven a stumbling block in the detection and treatment of cancers that advance stealthily with few symptoms. With a novel electrochemical biosensing device that identifies the tiniest signals these biomarkers emit, a pair of NJIT inventors are hoping to bridge this gap. Their work in disease detection is an illustration of the power of electrical sensing – and the growing role of engineers – in medical research.

Ideally, there would be a simple, inexpensive test – performed at a regular patient visit in the absence of specific symptoms – to screen for some of the more silent, deadly cancers,” says Bharath Babu Nunna, a recent Ph.D. graduate who worked with Eon Soo Lee, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, to develop a nanotechnology-enhanced biochip to detect cancers, malaria and viral diseases such as pneumonia early in their progression with a pin prick blood test.

Their device includes a microfluidic channel through which a tiny amount of drawn blood flows past a sensing platform coated with biological agents that bind with targeted biomarkers of disease in body fluids such as blood, tears and urine – thereby triggering an electrical nanocircuit that signals their presence. In research recently published in Nano Covergence, Nunna and his co-authors demonstrated the use of gold nanoparticles to enhance the sensor signal response of their device in cancer detection, among other findings.

One of the device’s core innovations is the ability to separate blood plasma from whole blood in its microfluidic channels. Blood plasma carries the disease biomarkers and it is therefore necessary to separate it to enhance the “signal to noise ratio” in order to achieve a highly accurate test. The standalone device analyzes a blood sample within two minutes with no need for external equipment.

Our approach detects targeted disease biomolecules at the femto scale concentration, which is smaller than nano and even pico scale, and is akin to searching for a planet in a galaxy cluster. Current sensing technology is limited to concentrations a thousand times larger. Using a nanoscale platform allows us to identify these lower levels of disease,” Nunna says, adding, “And by separating the plasma from the blood, we are able to concentrate the disease biomarkers.”

Source: https://www.eurekalert.org/

Simple Blood Test Will Diagnose Alzheimer’s Next Year

(from Bill Gates blog) How do you stop Alzheimer’s disease without a simple way to diagnose it? It’s a real chicken and egg problem, as I wrote last year on TGN. Discovering a treatment for Alzheimer’s requires lots of clinical trials for new drugs—but it’s difficult to enroll participants without a way to identify people who have the disease early enough for potential treatments to work.

Right now, the best way to diagnose the disease is through a spinal tap or a brain scan. The problem is that the former is invasive and the latter is expensive. Plus, many patients don’t get these tests until they start showing signs of cognitive decline, which means the disease may already be pretty advanced. It’s hard to overstate how important finding a reliable, affordable, and easy-to-use diagnostic is for stopping Alzheimer’s.

The good news is that we’re finally within reach of that goal thanks to significant breakthroughs over the last couple years. Scientists are pushing forward with new diagnostics that range from simple blood tests to voice analysis straight out of a sci-fi novel. We’re close to reaching the point where we can push past the chicken and egg problem.

That’s why I announced last summer that I was investing in a new fund with the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation called Diagnostics Accelerator, which aims to accelerate the progress already underway. I am grateful to be joined in this effort by my friends Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos. They have been tremendous partners who are deeply committed to finding an end to this disease. We’ll continue to work together on finding a new way to diagnose Alzheimer’s, as well as on other efforts, over the coming months. In the meantime, the fund is getting ready to announce the first round of awards.

It wasn’t that long ago that we had no way to test for Alzheimer’s beyond cognitive assessments. The first breakthrough came in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when brain imaging (like a PET scan or MRI) allowed us to see biological changes in the brain of someone with the disease.

Then came the spinal tap in 2006. A team of Swedish scientists—Oskar Hansson, Henrik Zetterberg, and Kaj Blennow—demonstrated that you could predict which patients would develop Alzheimer’s disease by looking at cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid found in the brain and spinal cord). Their discovery gave researchers a more accessible tool to make smarter decisions about who should be in a clinical trial. It wasn’t perfect, though—just ask anyone who’s ever had a spinal tap whether they’re eager to undergo the procedure again.

What does the ideal Alzheimer’s diagnostic look like? It needs to be cheap and easy to administer. It should tell us not only whether you have Alzheimer’s, but how far advanced the disease is. (Your cholesterol test doesn’t just tell you that you have cholesterol, after all—it lets you know how much you have and whether it could be a problem.) Above all, it should be as simple and painless as any of the other routine tests you get during your annual physical. In other words, a blood test would fit the bill.

Enter Randy Bateman, a professor and researcher at Washington University in St. Louis. His team was one of the first to identify changes in the blood of Alzheimer’s patients that remained consistent over many tests. Since he published his research in the summer of 2017, other researchers have released similar findings, and a lot of people are working to perfect the diagnostic (including the Swedish team that discovered the spinal tap test).

There’s a good chance a blood test will start being used to recruit patients into Alzheimer’s drug trials within the next year or two. That’s super exciting, because it means that labs will be able to recruit more patients more quickly, and scientists will be able to figure out whether a drug works in less time. It also means that you’ll one day be able to easily get tested during a routine doctor’s visit.

But what if we could find an even less invasive way to diagnose Alzheimer’s? What if we could use digital technology, not medicine, to identify individuals years before they start to develop mental decline?

Source: https://www.gatesnotes.com/